Saturday, March 22, 2014

Exploring Tortola

We've sailed around Tortola many times and know a number of her bays, but other than brief excursions ashore we have never really been inland on the island. Today we rented a car to provide the remedy.

Anchored in Trellis Bay it was super easy to walk across to the Beef Island airport and pick up a car at the east end of the island. With local intel from Paul, we immediately turned north for stunning views over Monkey Point and White Bay before continuing down to Josiah's Bay.

Being a Saturday and a local team surfing event at this particular beach we'd stumbled upon some great entertainment. All ages seemed to be participating and while I know nothing about surfing it appeared that there were some pretty good runs out there, and some pretty good wipe outs as well. The waves were probably about 5-6' tall at their largest and we were able to stand on the point by the bay for a good vantage point. I was having a great time playing around with the settings on my camera and managed to get some fun sequences.

We climbed higher and higher in our little car, transmission howling on the steepest hills, and were afforded views of Road Town on the south side and then Cane Garden Bay on the north side. We actually had spectacular views at almost every turn, but you'd have said, "Enough already!"

Tortola hosts the highest point in all the Virgin Islands at the top of Mount Sage (1710') and no, Henry didn't make me hike all the way up. Fairly near the summit in the national park is a parking lot with a little restaurant and quite a character named Jim who will set you literally on the right path. He takes his job very seriously but it was hard not to chuckle at his very English earnestness.

The rain forest at the top of the mountain was lush and humid with transition into a mahogany forest on the north slope. A lookout has been built a little below the summit with views of the Channel Islands and Nanny Cay, although it was quite hazy so it was difficult to see beyond Tortola itself. The very summit was marked by a survey point of concrete. Returning to the parking lot we stopped for lunch which was ho-hum but quite a good Painkiller to wash it down.

The north side of the island is open to the dreaded "north swell" so as sailors we don't have many options other than Cane Garden Bay to visit this side of the island. As a surfer I'm sure this makes it paradise. We dipped down into little bays from the dizzying heights where we saw camping shelters right on the beach at Brewers Bay and a pretty extensive resort at Long Bay. In other bays little working villages nestled in next to beatiful homes with views of Jost Van Dyke and perfect sunsets. At one beach we stopped to watch the pelicans in action and it was time to play with the camera again.

Late afternoon found us at Long Bay, home of Bomba's. This legendary bar has been built of scraps found on the beach and has been rebuilt time and again after hurricane damage. It really does look like a complete dump as you drive up to it or spy it from the beach, but enter under it's hallowed panty-adorned rafters and you immediately succumb to its character. I can only imagine the nature of the evening parties but we certainly enjoyed the $3 beer and another view of surfers in action.

With the sun setting behind us we rounded the western tip of the island and then headed home on the coast road on the south shore. Unlike the ridge road, this road is almost entirely down close to sea level, relatively straight and every community along the way makes copious use of speed bumps to the extent that there is almost a rhythm to driving this road: accelerate, slow, bump, release, accelerate, slow,...

We had plans for finding dinner in the Hodges Bay area but the restaurant we were looking for had closed so we decided to head back to Mowzer and perhaps dinner in Trellis Bay. After returning the car at the airport and wandering across the road to the bay, we settled onto the boat, couldn't make up our minds for dinner and opted for simple fare aboard.

Our final impression of Tortola: would rent a more powerful car next time especially if we had more people (I really thought we weren't going to make it up some of those hills), would eat dinner at West End at Fish 'n Lime, the island is a nice mix of local life and tourism - they've balanced it well, traffic and life on the island is not near as hectic as on St. Thomas with a slightly newer, cleaner feel. All in all we thoroughly enjoyed the day.

No comments:

Post a Comment